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Disencumber; a time to let go

“I should have….” There’s such a weight attached to words like that, when you let them sit in your mind.

How much of our busy-ness is what we create to distract us from having time to think of the negative thoughts, doubts, guilt, or regret we may carry with us? But if that’s the case, then a life-disruption – like a significant injury or illness, or loss of steady employment, can lead to a devastating term of confronting all the negative issues that we’ve tried to avoid by scheduling our time full. At least, that can be a danger for me.

There comes a time to give ourselves at least the same grace, the same opportunity to rest and/or move forward, as we are prepared to offer others. There is no burden so great as one that people of conscience place on themselves.

If there’s something that a person has done wrong, then – if the person learns from it – that’s experience. You can castigate yourself for an error, but if it’s an error you could then avoid on another occasion – that might put you ahead of a new person without that experience. Anyone can make a mistake. Everyone can grow. So we need to give ourselves permission to let go of past errors and let ourselves continue to grow and thrive through whatever changes are ahead.

Here are the lyrics to my song ‘Disencumber’.


No one can judge me more harshly
than I already judge myself.
The bar of my own expectation is higher
than anything others expect.

I need to leave that big box of deficiency
right up there on that high shelf.
The daily rocks that I add to my pack
accumulate so I’ll get wrecked.

There’s a time
to disencumber…
a time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

There’s a time
to disencumber,
to put aside how we self-reject.
Don’t look for bad news
you can do nothing about,
and find some good tunes to select.

I’m not saying to walk around blindly,
but it don’t help to stare at the light
in the interrogation room inside your mind
because it won’t leave you feeling so bright.

There’s a time to disencumber,
a time to walk around free,
among people who maybe I know nothing about
but at least they also don’t know me.

Disencumber – we are human,
equally valuable, all of us flawed.

Disencumber – it’s okay.
None of us can claim to be God.

There’s a time to disencumber…
time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

We need some news of release.

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My Secret Life As a Songwriter

In recent years, I have heard “I didn’t know that you sing!” from people in almost every context. Back in my college years, many – including me – may have thought music was the only thing I could sort of do. So how did music become my secret life?

I remember making up a simple little song in the sandbox when I was around 5 years old, excited about the pennies I found there. I remember the tune. When I was 7, I read a story that included words for a song – something about being a ‘Tumbling Tumbleweed’. I made up the melody, drew rough manuscript paper, and painstakingly wrote out the notes while sitting at the piano.

It’s not that I really strongly pursued music. Yes, I took piano lessons, and later voice lessons. I studied music theory in secondary school and college, auditioned for and joined choirs, sang in groups, eventually learned to play guitar. The only final exam I ever got 100% on was my grade 7 music theory exam. But I had many reasons for not getting serious about music.

My voice was too low to sing any of the popular music on the radio. I have asthma, and singing in smoky bars (back in that day, they were all smoky bars) might well have killed me. The songs I wrote were unusual, and would have been considered too weird by many. There were other things I wanted to do. Recording was expensive and difficult. I didn’t think I could make a living on music.

Despite the fact that I didn’t pursue music, I still wrote at least 3 songs every year. Sometimes they would tumble out all at once; sometimes I’d have an idea for a song and I worked at it. Even when I was working full time and family life got really busy, I would find ways to introduce music into what I did, and writing songs would feel therapeutic at very intense times or at times when I was underemployed – really, at any time.

Music has been good to me too. When I was in College, I developed a liking to an imaginative, attractive, and funny young lady. I wanted to let her know, but she was usually inseparable from her group of friends. There was a piano in a sitting and games room on campus, so I sat at that piano and improvised some music, hoping it would draw her over – and it worked. Although it took several more months before she agreed to go out with me, that was the beginning of that relationship. We’ve been married for more than 2 decades now.

In the meantime, things changed around me. Bars are not all smoky now – in fact, where I live, smoking is illegal in public buildings. The cost of recording is much lower, and the process is far more efficient with today’s technology. And, I don’t have to make a living by doing my music – I can treat my music as a serious hobby. My low voice and unusual lyrical styles only mean that I have a niche. People like Leonard Cohen, Tom Jones, and Johnny Cash have blazed a trail, too. The internet has made the publication and broad distribution of music of music easy, although not especially lucrative – but that’s okay with me.

So now, with over 100 sets of lyrics in my files, some complete and others just waiting for development, I am ready to make my life as a songwriter less of a secret. It doesn’t much matter to me if my music only appeals to a few – I don’t want it to sit dormant. I’ve already started putting it out there. I’m going to keep getting better, keep practicing, and keep recording music for publication and distribution. No more secrecy about my life as a songwriter.

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Writing Whenever You’re Ready

When I listen to songs on the radio, I listen for message and tone.

The ‘love’ songs I often hear often are trying to present some urgent need for accepting love as an immediate adventure, something that could pass at any moment. There are few songs that consider patience a virtue. So I decided that I needed to write a different sort of love song, one that would be accepting of the time and space of the other, and yet would indicate the desire and caring of the lover’s voice in the lyrics.

That’s where ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ comes from. (The ‘meet the dawn’ line is meant figuratively; to help the other get through a ‘dark’ time).

Lyrics and Music by Art Koop (last revised May 7, 2018)

You’re feeling the weight
of a wildly spinning globe
upon your shoulders…

and right now you see
love as another complication

But look at me-
I’m not asking you
to help me carry on…
If you let me in,
I’ll understand
and help you meet the dawn

Whenever you’re ready
to be loved…

Whenever you
Are ready to
Be loved…

Whenever you’re ready
To be

I’m ready to love you. (2x)

The burden you carry
you need not carry all alone. (2x)…

Whenever you’re ready
To be

I’m ready to love you. (2x)

So I say again
lie down, let me
massage your tired limbs –
and if you sleep,
some hope and faith can
shine into your dreams (2x)

Whenever you’re ready
to be loved…

Whenever you
Are ready to
Be loved

Whenever you’re ready
To be

I’m ready to love you. (4x)
I’m ready to love ——

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